Sunday, April 24, 2011
First Aired: 
Sunday, May 10, 2009

What Is It

Worship is the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for something.  The attitude of worship towards God or gods or ancestors is a universal of human culture.  But why do we worship?  Do objects of worship need to fulfill certain criteria?  Does worship play a positive or negative role in human culture?  Is it clear that a perfect, omnipotent and omniscient God truly wants to be worshipped?  Some pagan religions worship the earth, or the aspects of nature that make human life possible and rewarding.  Does this make more sense than worshipping an imperfect God?  The Philosophers express their reverence with Daniel Speak from Loyola Marymount University.

Listening Notes

John and Ken start off the show by trying to figure out what they are talking about: what is worship? They see whether the dictionary can help them out, but decide that it doesn’t really know either: it says we worship deities, and then lists examples of non-deities, like ancestors. John and Ken explore some of the other possibilities for worshipped objects besides deities, consider whether those objects are always deified in the process of being worshipped, and, if not, what makes them worship-worthy.

With the help of their guest Daniel Speak, John and Ken explore other ways to help out the dictionary’s lacking definition. They star by questioning whether worship is a feeling or an action. Daniel holds that it is more of an action than a feeling, though it is not just an action, and gives his philosophically considered definition of worship. Ken and John come back to the question of what makes an object of worship worthy of worship: it seems that someone or something’s sheer might does not make it right to worship him, her, or it. Perhaps the object of worship needs to be good as well. But even then, aren’t there some limits to what a worshipper should have to go through in worshipping? Why must the worshipper worship – and not just, for instance, acknowledge that the good thing is good? Daniel considers whether the worshipper-worshipped relationship needs to two-sided, and if so, what the repercussions are for non-agents that are worshipped, like the earth.

John and Ken get a caller that brings them back to the limits of right worshipping, given the fact that worshipping one thing often leads to villainizing its opposite. They explore the tension between worshipping whole-heartedly and not putting the worshipped object above questioning. They delve into the importance of the autonomy of the worshipper. Daniel reminds John and Ken of his point that worshiper-worshipped relationship seems to need to be two sided, and, in particular, that in such a two-sided relationship, the worshipped object can ‘give back’ the worshipper the autonomy he submitted in worshipping.

John and Ken finish off by considering cultism, worship of the earth, and mysticism.  How does the dynamic between sheer awe, moral obligation, and two-sidedness relate to non-personal objects of worship? A caller suggests that some of the tensions can be resolved by turning to mysticism.

  • Roving Philosophical Report (seek to 5:35): Julie Napolin talks to Archbishop FranzoKing, who pastors a church in San Francisco that finds its inspirational motivation in the music of John Coltrane
  • Sixty-Second Philosopher (seek to 50): Ian Schoales explores on the tension between entertainment and reverence in worship.  He reports on the Catholic Church’s effort to balance reverence with celebration, and how those relate to ‘entertainment’, kum bay yah and warm fuzzies.